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Studies on solar radiation and potential crop production at Comilla,

A. K. M. Adham1, M. H. Ali2, F. Khanam3
Dept. of Irrigation and Water Management, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh
Agricultural Engineering Division, Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture, P.O. Box-04, Mymensingh
2200, Bangladesh; 3 Dept. of Economics, H. M. D. S. & T. University, Dinajpur, Bangladesh

To increase the crop production to its potential, it is needed first to know the upper limit of

dry-matter production. Solar radiation data in the region of Comilla district was analyzed to

estimate the potential crop production. The region received annual atmospheric radiation of

12,549 MJ/m2. Of this, 30 % reached the earths surface as global radiation. Monthly mean

daily global radiation varied from 8.4 MJ/m2/day in December to 15.2 MJ/m2/day in April.

The annual global radiation received was 3792 MJ/m2. Based on 6.6 % photosynthetic

efficiency, the available radiation could produce 117.4 t/ha drymatter in three crop seasons

under optimum conditions of nutrition and other growth factors. Actual maximum dry-matter

production during these three seasons was 32.6 t/ha (only 28 % of the solar potential). Hence,

there is scope to further increase in crop production (by 260 %) in this area. Breading of crop

varieties, selection of suitable crop rotations and agronomic practices can boost up

productivity to potential level through utilization of the available solar energy.

Keywords: Agriculture, climate, dry matter production, solar radiation, extraterrestrial

radiation, photosynthetic efficiency



Agriculture is an exploitation of thermal and radiation energy. Even under improved

management practices, most of the variations in crop yield can be explained by the use of

analysis of weather elements (Shanker et al., 1992). Chang (1981) demonstrated that crop

response to fertilizer application is reduced in areas of low climatic yield potential. Crop

production in an area can be better described as (Ghuman and Singh, 1993):

DM + O2 = (Rg, H2O, CO2, QP, N, EM) ....................................... (1)

where DM, dry matter production; O2, oxygen evolved; Rg, incoming solar radiation (global

radiation); H2O, water; CO2, carbon dioxide assimilated; QP, quality of plant material; N,

essential nutrients for plant growth; and EM, efficiency of management (control of weeds,

pests and diseases, irrigation, etc.). If water, QP, N and EM are not limiting in equation (1),

the potential dry-matter production is determined by radiation.

Solar radiation affects many physiological processes, particularly photosynthesis.

Temperature regulates respiration and translocation. Plant respiration rate increases with

temperature. Temperature and solar radiation during the reproductive stage have the greatest

influence on rice yield because they determine the number of spikelets, where the

temperature is a function of solar radiation. For the same amount of daily solar radiation, the

photosynthetic rate increases with day length.

The extensive experimental data at International Rice research Institute (IRRI) have been

summarized by van Ittersum (1971) in a diagram to show the relationship between rice and

cloudiness, and latitude for different seasons. Based on the extensive experimental results, an

equation has been developed by IRRI (Change, 1981) to show the combined effect of

temperature and solar radiation on maximum rice yields in the tropics:

Y = S(278 7.07)t x 0.86 x 18.1 x 10 5 ......................................(2)

Where Y is yield in t.ha-1, S is solar radiation in cal.cm-2.day-1, t is temperature in 0C during 25

days before flowering, 0.86 is the average filled grain percentage, 18.1 is the average 1000

grain weight, and 10-5 is a correction factor. The maximum yield thus estimated is also known

as the climatic productivity index, which can be used to locate areas with analogous yield

potential or to eliminate the areas where the potentials are too low for a profitable enterprise.

To further increase the crop production to its maximum potential, there is need to first know

the upper limit of dry-matter production. In this study, the upper limit of dry-matter

production was estimated by analyzing the incoming solar radiation, and compared with the

present maximum dry-matter production (yield).

Materials and Methods

Site description and data collection

The study site was at the district of Comilla ( 23 0 30 N, 910 0), Bangladesh. Solar

radiation and other climatic data were collected from Bangladesh Meteorological

Department. Yield data was taken from the Annual Report of Bangladesh Institute

of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA, 2004).


Dry matter calculation

Dry matter production for a particular crop season was calculated as (Adapted from Ghuman

and Singh, 1993):

DM = AE x Ep x Cd ................................................ (3)

Where, DM = dry-matter production, Mg/m2-day

AE = available solar energy, MJ/m2-day

Ep = photosynthetic efficiency

Cd = energy needed (MJ) to produce 1 gm dry-matter

For field crop, photosynthetic efficiency (Ep) was taken as 6.6 %, and energy needed to

produce 1 gm dry-matter of field crop was taken as 4226 cal (0.01768 MJ) (Mitsui et al.,


The increased production percentage (Pp) was calculated as:

Pp = 100(Production gap between potential and present drymatter )/ (Present

drymatter production)

Calculation of atmospheric (extraterrestrial) radiation

The extraterrestrial radiation was calculated following the procedure of Smith et al. (1992):

24 60
Ra = Gsc . dr (s sin sin + cos cos sin s) ..........................( 4)

Where, Ra : extraterrestrial radiation (MJm-2d-1 )

Gsc : solar constant (MJm-2d-1 ) = 0.0820
dr : relative distance of earth and sun
: latitude (rad)

: solar declination
s : sunset hour angle (rad)
s = arccos(-tan tan ) .................................... .......... (5)
dr = 1 + 0.033 cos ( J) .............................................. (6)
= 0.409 sin ( J 1.39) .............................................. (7)

J = number of the day in the year (Julian day)

Calculation of day-length or photo period

The photo-period for different locations were calculated from solar equations. The

declination , defined by Hunt (1982), as the angle of the sun north or south of the

equatorial plane, can be found from the approximate equation of Cooper (1969):

= 23.45 Sin [360(284+n)/365] ..... (8)

Where n is the Jullian day of the year.

After the computation of , the length of maximum possible sunshine or photo-period in

hours in a day (N) is obtained from the equation:

N = (2/15) cos-1(-tan tan ) . (9)

Where is the latitude of a location, positive to the north.

Crop season

Three crops were reported in cropping pattern for Comilla, mustard (Nov. Jan), Boro (Jan.

May.) and T. aman (July -Oct.) [BINA, 2004]. The effective growth period (for capturing

solar energy) for mustard was taken as 67 days (out of 95 days), for Boro it was taken as 115

days of growth period (out of 155 days) and for T. aman it was taken as 108 days (out of 135

days of growth period).


Atmospheric radiation (Ra)

Atmospheric radiation received at Comilla during summer (April Sept.) was 39 43

MJ/m2/d, which dropped to 23 31 MJ/m2/d during winter season (Oct. - Feb.) (Fig. 1.).

This drop in atmospheric radiation was mainly due to the smaller angle of sun inclination.

Radiation intensity is related to the diurnal sun inclination.

Mean radiation (MJ/m /d)

40 Ra











Fig. 1. Seasonal variation in monthly means of daily solar radiation.

Around the year, one m2 area normal to the surface facing the sun received atmospheric

radiation of 12,549 MJ.


Global radiation (Rg)

Due to reflection and absorption in the atmosphere, about 23.2 % (in June) to 36.5 % (in

December) atmospheric radiation reached the earths surface as global radiation (Table 1).

The mean annual global radiation received at Comilla was 3792 MJ. A wide variation in the

distribution of Rg was observed throughout the year (Fig.1). A relationship between measured

monthly mean of Rg and Ra was established using the form of Angstroms equation

(Angstrom, 1924):

Rg = Ra (a + b. n/N) .......................................................... (10)

The value of the coefficients a and b were found as 0.1688 and 0.21, respectively (Fig. 2).

The close relationship between Rg/ Ra and n/N values (r = 0.836) indicate the usefulness of

the fitted equation in computing Rg if n values are known.



y = 0.1688x + 0.2101
R = 0.6995


0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1

Fig. 2. Relationship between Rg/Ra and n/N


Potential productivity

Season-wise receipt of solar energy and potential dry-matter production were summarized in

Table 2. The potential dry-matter production from the global radiation at Comilla would be

117.4 t/ha during three season. Only 28 % of the potential capacity is produced at present

time. This estimate shows a very high potential of agricultural production (260.1 % can be

increased), in the absence of constraints of nutrients and water.

Table 1. Monthly means of measured daily global radiation, coefficient of variation (%) for

global radiation, and sunshine hour at Comilla during 2002.

Month Measured mean Coefficient Measured radiation as Bright Photo-

radiation of variation percentage of sunshine period (hr)
(MJ/m2/day) (%) atmospheric radiation hour
Jan 8.7 25.7 34.6 7.5 10.72

Feb 10.1 8.6 34.8 9.7 11.21

Mar 11.8 12.3 34.2 8.6 11.86
Apr 13.9 19.3 35.5 7.3 12.56
May 11.3 29.6 27.0 6.4 13.14
Jun 9.9 39.9 23.2 4.5 13.43
Jul 10.5 35.0 24.7 4.6 13.30
Aug 11.6 22.4 28.6 5.1 12.79
Sep 10.5 22.8 28.8 6.3 12.12
Oct 9.6 16.5 30.9 7.0 11.42
Nov 8.1 33.8 31.0 7.4 10.84
Dec 8.65 11.8 36.5 7.5 10.57

Table 2. Season-wise receipt of solar radiation and potential dry-matter production and actual

dry-matter production for different crop rotations at Comilla

Season Solar Potential dry- Actual drymatter Present Increasable

radiation matter production (Mg/ha) production production
(MJ/m2) production Grain Straw Total as % of (%)
(Mg/ha) potential
Mustard 569.2 21.25 1.73 3.12 4.85
Boro 1428.3 53.32 6.30 9.25 15.55
T.aman 1147.9 42.85 5.28 6.93 12.21 28 260.1

Total 117.4 32.6


Since the potential of Comilla environment is to produce 117.4 t/ha/year (under three

cropping seasons) and the present production is only 32.6 t/ha/year, there is scope to further

increase in crop production (by 260 %) in this area. This entails breeding of new varieties of

crops, selection of suitable crop rotation and agronomic practices by which more solar energy

can be utilized to achieve potentials of productivity.



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